In Georgia and across the country, advocates for clean air are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to do more to protect public health by strengthening air-quality standards for soot pollution.
Soot is fine particulate matter from power plants, vehicles and refineries, and the EPA has proposed revisions to its National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Isabella Ariza, associate attorney for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Georgia, said the EPA is reducing the allowed micrograms from 12 to anything between nine and 10, but she emphasized according to scientific studies, nothing above eight micrograms is safe. She added the health burdens of soot pollution could be fatal.
“It can lead to lung failure, it can lead to heart diseases, and strengthening this rule really can prevent hundreds and thousands of premature deaths,” Ariza asserted. “I have the estimate of Georgia here, and it’s around 80 premature deaths from coal plants alone associated to soot pollution.”
Ariza pointed out the new rules will benefit Georgian who are heavily impacted by poor air quality if they live near industrial facilities, highways or a power plant.
In the meantime, the EPA said the plan reflects the latest health data and scientific evidence, but it is accepting feedback based on other suggestions as well. The agency held public hearings this month and is accepting public comments until March 28.
Patrick Drupp, director of climate policy for the Sierra Club, said everyone has a right to breathe in clean air and now, the right is being denied to a lot of people around the country. Drupp noted the agency’s own Scientific Advisory Committee has recommended tougher standards.
“The EPA could save up to 20,000 lives per year based on their own science and their own analysis,” Drupp stressed. “Adopting a more stringent standard — going from the low end of what they proposed of nine to what we’re asking for of no higher than eight — can save an additional 4,000 lives.”
Drupp added 63 million Americans live in areas with unhealthy spikes of soot pollution, and 20 million live with dangerous levels year-round.
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This story was written by Danielle Smith, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.